The night quietened down for just a moment so that the group could to catch the count, before growing as one voice.
Streamers rained from above as party horns tooted, hugs were shared, and songs were sung.
They welcomed in the New Year and congratulated each other on surviving the last, promising to make this one better.
But promises made at midnight can be hard to keep in the morning light.
Many think they never existed, some think they were hunted into extinction, but few know that they were forced into hiding.
Distinguishable by their smooth skin and shiny hair, they emit positivity and happiness like bubbles into the air. Bright eyes, big smiles, and an endless supply of support and friendship, they now live among us, bringing rainbows into grey lives.
Just as werewolves are now considered a myth, so are the unicorns. And while a werewolf still turns at the full moon, the unicorns are always their real selves on the inside, but will only ever show their true form amongst their own kind.
There are more in the world than you may realise. They are that comforting smile, that surprise helper, that person who is always there when you need them.
But ask them if they’re a unicorn? They will simply laugh, and make a joke. They cannot admit to what they are. Not yet at least. Not while the darkness still surrounds us.
For now, they are the light in the shadows, the beauty in an otherwise dreary day. And for now, that’s okay.
The fire fairy danced across taste buds and tickled the air until the mouth gasped for more. She continued to twirl on her tiptoes even as fresh air flooded her space.
The addition of water only quickened her steps, and she sent flickers of flames down the back of the throat.
Just as she grew tired and prepared to take her leave, a new rush of heat enveloped her and renewed her energy. The fire fairy spread her wings, laughed out loud, and began to dance again.
Looking at her reflection, all Samantha could see were her flaws.
Her attention was immediately drawn to the lines and shadows beneath her eyes, but they soon followed to the creases around her mouth and across her brow.
Any bump or discolouration stood out next. The shape of her jaw line, the lack of chin, the size of her ears… Samantha could glance at herself for just a moment and see all of these imperfections at once, or stare for an hour and drown in a sense of worthlessness.
But not today.
It took a few minutes, but Samantha began to tick off the things about herself that she actually kind of liked.
Her lips: she loved the shape and natural colour. She hardly ever wore lipstick, but when she did, it was always in bright and bold colours that drew the attention towards her pout.
Next were her eyebrows: shaped yesterday at the salon, they arched and curved in perfect symmetry. Gorgeous.
Trying to look past the darkness below, Samantha instead focused on her eyes: honey-brown with flecks of gold, they seemed to brighten with every compliment she paid herself.
Her cheekbones weren’t bad either, she decided. And with this she began to smile. With the lift of the corner of her lips came a radiance of confidence. Even as the lines around her mouth wrinkled, Samantha hardly registered them as a flaw.
Not today, anyway.
Today, she was choosing to be beautiful. Today Samantha was choosing to be happy.
Glistening silver streaks weaved around and around like a sparkly snake climbing towards the heavens, while beads of blue and purple were hung loosely amongst the green spikes with clear baubles perched delicately on its tips.
Christmas had arrived at the Williams household, but not everyone was there to celebrate the festive season.
A small ceremony was taking place in the backyard where the children openly wept and the adults’ faces grew red trying to keep their tears hidden.
A small box was placed into the ground with a lone sunflower dropped on top. A short karakia was spoken, the first of the dirt shifted, and a final farewell said.
The twinkling of stars were hidden above the glow of fairy lights as the family eventually moved back inside.
A small dish on the kitchen floor sat empty, but no one made to remove it. Instead they tried to settle into their usual places around the dining table and on the couch. Few words were spoken, none of meaning. But arms of comfort were freely available and taken advantage of.
Finally the children were ushered to bed and the adults had a moment to themselves. Presents were brought out of hiding places, wrapped, and placed under the tree, but one was taken away.
A small and poorly wrapped parcel that jingled when it was moved was put high on a shelf, not to be forgotten, but for now unrequired.
They had joked about this. There were always little comments about it happening, but never to be taken seriously.
And yet here they were, side by side, the nerves prickling through to their fingertips.
A side glance to the left, a nod in return. Were they ready?
“Let’s do this,” she said. “Let’s adopt the tabby one”.
Guy Fawkes was well and truly over, but that didn’t stop the neighbours carrying on their celebrations, more than a week later. Bangs and screaming explosions sounded from over the fence, sending the tough Rottweiler to cower beneath the bed with the cats.
Several requests from young families on the street had been made to cease fireworks after 11pm, but the alpha-males next door continued to light them into the wee hours of the morning.
Hearing the familiar whirr and flash of light as the clock ticked past 2am on a Monday morning was the final straw for William Burrows.
He apologised to the pets and retrieved his PT-80 from the safe.
The neighbours were relieved when it seemed the boys had run out of supplies a short time later, and most had finally fallen asleep when a car left the property with its lights off.
The next day, William was seen finishing his morning walk without his dog. He explained to Margaret, at the end of the street, that the poor thing was still hiding under the bed after the latest night of fireworks. She nodded sympathetically and told him that her cat still hadn’t returned home. He promised to look out for it.
A quiet night followed, and the street’s residents smiled when a moving van arrived at the boys’ house. The neighbours joked about throwing a street party to celebrate their leaving.
Several times over the next week friends and the occasional family member turned up only to peer through the windows and leave confused. Only one person knocked on William’s door. The father of one of the boys asked about the moving van and whether William could remember the company. He shrugged and said he didn’t recall, was thanked, then left alone.
It was nearly a month before the landlord, complaining about unpaid rent, discovered the empty house. New tenants were found quickly, and to the neighbourhood’s relief, they were a quiet couple, not fond of fireworks.